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Hagerstown Police Chief Smith announces retirement: 'It's just time'

12-year veteran to step down Sept. 6

Holtzman named acting chief

March 21, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith speaks at a news conference Wednesday, March 21, announcing his retirement in September.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith, who made fighting Hagerstown’s drug problem one of his top priorities, will retire Sept. 6 after 12 years of service with the city.

“It’s just time,” Smith said Wednesday during a news conference when asked why he planned to retire. “I want to give someone else a chance.”

Before coming to Hagerstown in 1999, Smith served with the Baltimore Police Department, where he rose to the rank of major and retired after 26 years.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, who was mayor when Smith was hired, said Wednesday that he actively pursued Smith from a field of five finalists for the job.

“He grabbed our attention right away,” Bruchey said. “He was instrumental in bringing a positive philosophy to Hagerstown about getting back to the basics and getting beats out on the streets.”

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Smith, 61, replaced former police Chief Dale Jones, who resigned to head the law-enforcement branch of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

At the time of his appointment to police chief, Smith said that he was aware of Hagerstown’s continuing problem with an open-air drug market and considered suppressing it a challenge.

“I know if I am successful, I will feel like I’ve really accomplished something,” he said in a 1999 interview withThe Herald-Mail.

He said Wednesday that the police department ramped up drug arrests when he arrived, but the problem persisted until 2001, when the city installed surveillance cameras where drugs were sold in the open.

“It didn’t eliminate drug dealing, but it closed the open drug market,” he said. “...The most successful thing as far as the open-air drugs was the cameras. It had a more calming affect on the neighborhoods.”

Bruchey said that during the application process, Smith stayed in the city for a few days and drove around to identify crime areas that needed to be addressed.

“He’s a cop’s cop. That’s what we needed,” Bruchey said. “As a person, he has a great family. He’s just a top-notch guy.” 

Smith said he plans to move out West, where two of his three children live.

He said he had a lot of opportunities to work elsewhere after he retired from the Baltimore Police Department.

“I like Hagerstown. I’ve always liked Hagerstown,” said Smith, noting that his grandparents used to live in the city.

He said one of the reasons he chose to lead the Hagerstown Police Department was because it was the only local law-enforcement agency with a national accreditation.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I got here with the talent level at HPD,” he said.

After arriving in Hagerstown, Smith said he was impressed by the cooperation among police agencies in the area, particularly with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

“We do so much with them that it’s like a single department,” Smith said. 

He also praised the work of the Washington County Narcotics Task Force, which is made up of officers from several local law-enforcement agencies.

Smith said another highlight of his tenure with the city involved working with the county liquor board, which is formally called the Board of License Commissioners for Washington County. He said the two agencies worked closely to enforce liquor laws and shut down taverns that continually violated those laws.

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Smith earned an education unlike most officers.

He said he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from American University in 1973, followed by a Master of Science in economics from the University of Baltimore.

He also attended the Senior Management Institute for Police at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

From 2005-06, Smith took an unpaid leave of absence from the city and worked under contract for theU.S. State Departmentin Afghanistan, where he served as an adviser to a provincial police chief in the southern part of that country.

City officials have announced that Capt. Mark Holtzman will serve as acting police chief when Smith retires.

Holtzman, whose current position is the department’s operations captain, has served on the force for nearly 23 years, according to a city news release. He holds a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from the University of Baltimore and is working toward a master’s degree in public administration.

The city said Holtzman is to attend the FBI National Academy from April to June.

The police department has 98 sworn officers and a budget in the neighborhood of $12 million, Smith said.
According to the Hagerstown Human Resources Department, the police chief’s annual salary range is $68,016 to $107,785.60.   

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